“If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Lately I’ve been playing this year’s blockbuster. No, not Sunset Overdrive or Destiny (don’t be silly…), I’ve been playing the game that everyone is talking about. That’s right, Kim Kardashian Hollywood! I know what you’re thinking… but under that shiny, cold, brutal exterior lies a work of post-modern genius and as damning a critique of modern life as you’re ever likely encounter. You see, Kim Kardashian Hollywood is actually a tribute to Aldous Huxley’s dystopian masterpiece Brave New World. The developers thought they were being clever and that no-one would notice, but you don’t fool me so easily!
I have to admit that originally they had me fooled too. My first impressions were that this was a brutally cynical piece of F2P design, which at times could be perceived as exploiting young people’s fears. Fears such as body image (you’ll need to fit the right “look” to succeed), popularity (if you don’t have enough “followers” then more famous people won’t acknowledge you), peer pressure (drink and be rewarded for it socially) and sexual pressure (you’re encouraged to make yourself available to others who are more popular in order to boost your fame).
I was wrong.
Brave New Kardashian is actually a heart-wrenching masterpiece. It chronicles the futility of a wretched plebeian (I named mine “Douchebag”, but other names are available) attempting to shake off the shackles of their birth as an Epsilon (or “E-List Celebrity” in the parlance of the game) and ascend to becoming an Alpha (or “A-List Celebrity” as the clever developers called it). From the moment Kim Kardashian waltzed into Douchebag’s life, talked down to her and stole clothes from her workplace ahead of a big party (BFF’s 4 LYFE LOL!), the die was cast.
Armed with a new purpose in life, Douchebag became trapped in a life of drudgery and pointlessness (the delicious irony). She started working as few hours as possible in her regular job, in order to have the time to perform routine and mundane tasks elsewhere for even less reward. What little rewards Douchebag did earn would then be spent on trying to do additional mundane things in order to slowly gain more “followers” (a bit like a really shitty cult leader). Like a crack fiend (as well as cult leader), what little cash and energy Douchebag could muster were completely invested in acquiring more. “More followers, give me MOAR FOLLOWERS. FUCK THE CONSEQUENCES!” screamed Douchebag as she continued hungrily down her path of self-destruction neglecting food, family and future. Worse still, she couldn’t even pull off a crack addict’s shabby chic! Her wardrobe was *so* 2013…
Douchebag never made it to becoming an Alpha. It took a herculean effort just to get her to the cusp of being a Gamma (or C-List Celebrity in the game’s parlance), at which point it dawned on me that this wasn’t just a “game” and the real messages and metaphor became clear.
In adapting Brave New World to a F2P game, Glu have created a searing piece of social commentary on modern life and the systems and values which media, big business and society have imposed. Values which place celebrity over talent, and fame over social worth. Brave New Kardashian paints a dystopian world where the old don’t exist, art has no value and the only currency is how many sycophants you can acquire, everything else is meaningless.
Knowing how clever the developers are, I suspect if I spent enough time and currency on the game to become an “Alpha”, Douchebag would cease to have any meaning in her life (having achieved her only goal). Like in Brave New World, this realisation of futility would push the protagonist into an existential funk which would culminate in her taking her own life as an ultimate act of defiance against the dystopia in which she lives.
Yep, I’m sure that’s how it ends… Any other outcome is too bleak to contemplate.